Having a baby comes with the onset of a whole slew of "what now?" moments. Aside from a body you no longer recognize (and the pain associated), hormonal shifts, and a brand-new crying baby who needs you every second of the day, there's also breastfeeding to contend with. For some, it's a breeze, or at the very least, manageable. I wasn't so lucky — like, at all. In fact, breastfeeding actually made my postpartum anxiety worse — yes, worse.
Those first hours holding my brand new baby girl were euphoric. In a fog-filled haze, I still remember looking at her wondering what do I do now? as if everything I had planned so strategically vanished from my brain. I learned quickly that while it's one thing to plan, it's quite another to execute. When the nurse told me it was time to give breastfeeding a try, I was scared, but more than happy to. I'd looked forward to those moments for nine long months and couldn't wait to feel all the things so many other mothers experienced.
However, it didn't go that way for me. Just as with a lot of mothers, my girl wouldn't latch. A lactation consultant came in to walk me through, and the pressure to do this "simple, natural thing" became too much. My daughter screamed and thrashed and I sobbed, feeling like I hadn't even started my motherhood journey and I'd already failed her.
I didn't quit right away because I felt I owed it to her and myself to try until I'd tried everything. While we ended up having to formula feed in the hospital, we arranged to have a lactation consultant come to the house to give me a more dedicated lesson where, hopefully, I'd feel more calm. Honestly, it didn't help, and if anything, made things worse. By this point — days after birth — I was sleep deprived, my daughter was hungry, and my anxiety and postpartum depression (PPD) mounting. Every time I finally got her to latch, either there would be no milk letdown or my daughter refused me altogether.
Between all of this, we finally came to an impasse and gave into the bottle. I was disappointed in myself and when I think back, I still am. I don't know if things would've ever worked themselves out but my mental health was in dire need of changing course. Whether you've successfully mastered the art of breastfeeding (and I truly believe it's an art form), or if you're like me and gave it your very best and still didn't make it, it doesn't make you any more or less than a mother.
For those of you who battle anxiety who also maybe missed out on the bond because of going to the bottle, I'm hugging you right now because I get it. We're all doing the best we know how, and it's all we can do, you know? With that, here are some of the ways breastfeeding made my postpartum anxiety worse. If you're in the same boat, hang in there; there's no shame in trying another path.